How and when did you join Renault Sport F1 ?
Jean-Pierre Raymond : I started in 2000 at the time when Renault had just bought Benetton to create its own team, Renault F1 Team. The company wanted a person who would be able to look after both security and logistics and I was recruited for this purpose. I had experience in the two areas as I was working for an airline at the time, in charge of operations, security and logistics. Before that I had worked for the air force as a captain where again I had looked after security and logistics on the cargo planes.
My first task was to implement a security plan for all F1 activities, and in parallel I shadowed the logistics manager for a year. He was retiring at the end of 2001 so when he left I took on the travel and logistics for Benetton, which became Renault F1 Team in 2002.
Alexandre Hartmann : I started on a work placement in February 2014 after leaving university where I studied industrial systems, specializing in logistics. In May 2015 I was fully employed by Renault Sport F1 to support Jean-Pierre and the logistics department. I look after all the flow of material and personnel. The overall goal for each activity is for all material and people to be in the right place at the right time with the correct corresponding information.
Jean-Pierre, when you joined Renault, what kind of logistics were involved ? What did you have to transport around the world ?
JPR : In 2000 we supplied two teams, Benetton and Arrows. The season was 17 races but there was also testing, which was almost every week between races. Everything engine-related was sent from Viry. In total we had around seven or eight tonnes of material to send to each event. We had a lot more equipment back then as we also looked after the IT systems in the engines and had to transport the corresponding servers and parts.
In 2000 the engine part was relatively straightforward as we were still using the V10 that had won the world championship six times in the previous decade. The technology was a known quantity and the amount of equipment more or less the same. But in 2001 we introduced the open V10 engine, which was a brand new concept and much more complicated to manage. We had a lot of updated parts to transport. The season almost always started with a back to back race, Australia and Malaysia. I remember we had to send two different spec engines as we had not yet completed a full endurance cycle with the engine. I was asked to put a crisis plan in place to send back parts in exchange for updates, as and when they had been signed off. It was very challenging, but my aeronautic background was very useful as I could create a plan to satisfy the needs of our technical team.
It was at that point that we became a known consignor so we could optimize all the air freight logistics. I put in place new procedures. Tragically, in 2001 9/11 happened and a lot more security measures had to be put in place. At the same time, the purchase of Benetton and frequent engine changes made things a lot more complicated. It remained that way until the engine freeze in 2007.
How did the engine freeze change things for you ?
JPR : The engine freeze meant there were a lot fewer parts to be sent to races as no updates were permitted during the year. Things became a lot calmer. Our activity also changed a little as we became an engine supplier and offered “a la carte” systems. We shipped things as and when the teams wanted them.
Alexandre, how does that compare to the logistics required nowadays ?
AH : The new regulations have created a lot more diversity and the requirements change each race. For a European race we send three trucks : an office truck, a support truck with the motorhome parts and further equipment, then a final truck with the engines and the ancillary parts. This comes to about five to six tonnes, or around 15 engines. For overseas races, air freight costs a lot of money so we separate the engine elements from other equipment. In this case identical kits are sent by sea freight. Everything that is of minimal value – tables, chairs, printed material, cleaning products – goes by ship. One kit goes to Australia, comes back to Europe and we repack for a race in the second part of the year, such as Singapore. We need to do this as it is more cost effective.
JPR : It’s interesting as sea freight was not used in the early 2000s. We did the sums and worked out that it was much more economical than renting everything on site. We started using an independent company in 2003 as FOM did not organize the sea freight back then. Our first full season of using sea freight was in 2004.
And how have the ‘human’ logistics changed ?
JPR : In 2003 only about 20 people went to races from our engine facility in Viry-Châtillon. There were more going from Enstone, where the chassis team was based, but we did not look after their logistics. The number further decreased when some PR and marketing staff moved to Enstone, but then we increased back to around 25 people maximum. When we started to supply Red Bull in 2010 this number went to 30 people, and increased gradually as we started to we supply four teams. At one point we sent around 50 people to each race. As of last year we now supply only two teams so are back to the 25 – 30 people. We constantly adapt our resources according to operational needs.
AH : Jean-Pierre is right in saying that around 30 people do the races. But with around 20 races per year, tests, aero tests, PR events, supplier trips and so on, we could arrange as many as 800 flights per year !
Alexandre, did you appreciate the scale of the logistics involved in RSF1 before you joined the company ?
AH : Before joining RSF1 I had only looked at material and equipment logistics, not travel or moving people. Organising travel is not fundamentally difficult, but the details make the exercise complex and pain-staking. There are different requirements for different people, staggered arrivals and departures, and so on. Before coming to F1 I would have thought everything was possible, even simple, to manage. But there are some things that are specific to F1 and you will only know if you have been to a race track. When you are on site you realize that some situations are impossible to manage. For example at Monza with different exits and entrances, pick-ups and drop ups…things get very difficult if you don’t know your way around. It is the same for the street tracks – it is sometimes hard work to get from A to B so you need to recce the locations and try to foresee every eventuality ; it’s the only way to be efficient.
How did you find the system on your arrival, Alexandre ?
AH : During my studies at engineering college I learnt the classic procedures and protocols – as would happen in our parent company Renault. For example, you order a part, it arrives, you ship it out or put on the car. Here it is very different. I remember I had barely arrived and just two weeks later had to do the Australian Grand Prix departures. I had to manage all the customs, ensure everything arrived on time, the right part was sent and received etc. It was good fun but stressful as you had to know about the customs and protocol. There were lots of different steps in place, lots of sub-systems but it was all to ensure that the material arrived on time and in the right place. The system was extremely complicated but robust.
Did Jean-Pierre’s experience help you ?
AH : Absolutely. He knows exactly what he has to do. In F1 everyone has a role and responsibilities and in an emergency you need to know who does what so you don’t lose any time. That kind of experience you only learn on the job.
And does Alexandre bring new insights to the role ?
JPR : Yes. I wanted to have someone working with me to facilitate logistics, which had been divided in two : pre-event operations and post-event logistics. To speed things up we were looking for a young engineer with knowledge in logistics and supply chain optimization. With Alexandre I’ve learnt some very useful things about supply management and traceability, new theories and practices – some of which he has already put in place. I’ve taught him about event operations, good working practices and having multiple solutions in place ready to go so you are able adapt to each situation.
In F1 there are lots of quirks, so together we have been able to update and streamline a lot of the logistics.
Alexandre, do you think you and Jean-Pierre complement each other ?
AH : Yes, I think we do. Jean-Pierre brings his network and experience and I can challenge the actual procedures and bring what I learnt at college. There are certain tools and procedures we use that I have made a bit easier. I am still working on improving certain things, such as tracking. We used to do a lot of things by hand, which was fine, but I’ve tried to simplify to speed things up. Automating programmes using certain tools means you have a trace of everything. By doing this we can concentrate more on the essential jobs and less on the ancillary ones.
What do you like about the job ?
AH : On the whole, I like the demands and the challenge that goes with it, the unseen and sorting things out. I also like to learn and the diversity of my tasks mean I learn something new every day.
JPR : Likewise, I enjoy the challenge of getting things done in difficult circumstances. Each day is different.
How do you see the logistics department evolve in 20 years ?
AH : I see a job that is more automated, more IT led, with more systems and more flexibility. I think we will use technology a lot more – smart phones, tablets…I can see us walking around the paddock with a computer that is connected to everything, you can see everything in one place, and you could do all logistical matters with one touch. We have already come on so much with mobiles, email and wifi everywhere you go, which has really eased the job. But the personal touch, the relationships that you have with people, that will stay the same. And that’s where the experience of people like Jean-Pierre really counts.